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Hong, Dombroski win Allen Clark



By Peter Oliver

Chris Hong has the body type you might expect in a top-notch bike racer. He can't weigh more than 120 pounds and looks as if eating a couple of extra meals a day would really do him some good.

But, holy Hong! This guy can really climb, as he proved on Sunday in the Allen Clark Memorial Hill Climb up Appalachian Gap. On a tiny, ultra-lightweight bike to match his small frame, the 20-year-old from Lutherville, Maryland, covered the 6.2-mile distance in a remarkably swift time of 25 minutes, 14 seconds.

The time was more than a minute and a half faster than the time of second-place Jason Baer of Burlington, but Hong still had a look of sad disappointment on his face as riders gathered after the race for the awards ceremony at the Mad River Glen Basebox. After all, he had been going after the course record and the $100 bonus he would have earned for breaking it. Instead, he ended up a measly 16 seconds short of a record-setting performance. "Next year," he said, his disappointment shifting quickly to determination.

Fastest among the women was Amy Dombroski, a native Vermonter who now lives in Boulder, Colorado, arguably the nation's capital of aerobic athleticism. Dombroski seemed like someone who had a chance at setting a new women's course record, but she conceded to being a little tired after a long racing season.

Included among her season's results was a third at the U.S. national road race championships, so clearly she knows how to pedal fast. And while her time of 30:25 was more than three and a half minutes quicker than local rider Marilyn Ruseckas, the second-fastest women, it was still more than a minute outside of the women's course record. As Hong could tell her, there is always next year.

But there was at least one unofficial course record set on a cool, cloudy day that saw more than 70 riders -- among them four unicyclists -- take on the climb. Ken Cestone, a 71-year-old from Bennington, got to the top in 33:02, faster than any guy over 70 has ever covered the distance. Cestone claims to hold age-group course records in various northeastern hill climbs, so go ahead Ken -- add one more arrow to your quiver.

It wasn't a great day for local riders, although Lisle Gilbert put in an admirable time of 31:43, with Geoff Wade crossing the line in 32:18, not far behind. But the bottom line was this: Finishing fast wasn't nearly as important as simply entering. All proceeds from entry fees went to Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports. With the record number of entries this year, that good cause was well rewarded.

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